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Dobama Theatre’s ‘Wakey, Wakey’ is a gentle journey that awaits us all

What is it like to die or more to the point what is it like to witness another person’s death? With 151,600 world wide deaths every day (that works out to two people every second) odds are we will be present as someone, perhaps a loved one, crosses through the veil.

Dobama Theatre’s newest offering, Wakey,Wakey begins with Guy (Jason Martin*) sprawled on the floor clad only in pajama bottoms. He comes to and exclaims “Is it now? I though I had more time.” I would imagine for many of us that will be part of our last words also.

Soon, Guy returns in a wheelchair in a suit jacket, dress shirt, pajama and robe as well as slippers. Smiling, he encourages, “Well, we’re not here to mope...right?” He then, through the use of a stack of index cards, proceeds to humorously recount his life as pictures are projected on the back wall of what looks like an abandoned hospital waiting room with two groupings of odd boxes on either side of the stage that represent left behind material possessions.

The words and images are random much as you would imagine is happening in a body and brain that is on the verge of shutting down. From time to time, Guy breaches the fourth wall and engages with the audience. Places and events that had an impact on his life come in the form of a word scramble game, Paris...Stockholm. Random factoids are shared, “Did you know that figs are high in iron?” and “Time is your friend and time is your enemy.” In short, it is Guy’s life flashing past with the audience as witnesses with so much to say in way too short a time.

Guy is joined by Lisa (Katrice Headd+) who is his hospice worker assigned to make his last moments as comfortable as possible. She arrives with her own chair, notebook to record ongoing observations, a thermos of hot Hibiscus tea for herself and a washcloth and water to sooth Guy’s forehead. As Guy slips closer to his transition, Lisa performs a Reiki aesthetic cleansing as Guy succumbs quietly with his last whispered words to Lisa for the audience of, “Take care of each other.”

As the one hour of stage time comes to a close the house lights come on and audience members are invited onstage to celebrate their own lives. There are party balloons, confetti, Chinese fortune cookies, cake, fig newtons, Oreo cookies, drink boxes, hibiscus tea and a station where you can leave your favorite quote and take one left behind by another. It is also a time to discuss the meaning of the work with other audience members if you feel so inclined.

Jason Martin gives a carefully measured performance as Guy as he guides us through the process of his death. Katrice Headd as the hospice worker shows that her being there in the final moments is more than just a job as emotion overtakes her momentarily at the end. The show is directed by Christopher Mirto who takes care to see that the carefully pacing is maintained throughout. Marcus Dana does a stupendous job with the lighting making subtle changes as Guy’s time comes to a close. The same is true with Derek Graham’s sound design. T. Paul Lowry once again excels with his video projections.

This powerfully concentrated work is bound to elicit a cornucopia of reactions from each show’s collection of audience members. Some will understand while others will leave with “WTF?” on their lips and still others will think that they have gone through a drug free acid trip. No matter what the response, everyone who sees this show will be changed in some way. This is the distilled essence of good theater.

Wakey, Wakey runs through November 10, 2019 at Dobama Theatre located at 2340 Lee road in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. For tickets and information go to or call (216) 932-3396.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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